Never underestimate the ability of people to overcome their natural biases or suspicions to create something meaningful and creative.
We already know this happens in the workplace — people of diverse backgrounds, skills and ages gather in offices, warehouses, or studios to accomplish something. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails miserably. But in the mundane day-to-day of this, we sometimes forget the effort and openness this requires. Sometimes, the effort this collaboration takes is more apparent — such as during a big brand identity project, creating a brand positioning statement or renaming a business or launching a product. We see people pushed to the edge trying to create something to support their business goals and we wonder how or if it will ever happen. Tempers flare and emotions run rampant under the pressure of looming deadlines and tightening budgets. A brand identity process, like we do every day at our office, opens up varied opinions, prejudices, and ideas.
It’s during these often highly emotional, sensitive or political situations I’m reminded of a knitting class I taught several years ago in a small coastal town. Like many small towns without transit, a stable economy or enough municipal resources, there were a lot of biases between age and interest groups, all of whom were competing for a limited pool of financial and physical resources. Seniors were afraid of teens, teens were indignant towards seniors, and interest groups stuck together.
The class, held in art gallery, was attended by only three people — a male teen who had never knit before, an elderly grandmother who’d forgotten how, and an artist and volunteer at the gallery who didn’t know we were coming but figured she’d join in.
For two hours, we went over and over how to cast on and knit the stitches for a scarf. Once they got the hang of it, I’d make them rip it out and start again. Muscle memory is key with knitting. But here were three people who normally would avoid each other on the street or whose paths would never cross in the day to day of things with a united goal. They were forced to learn something difficult and sometimes frustrating together, while being respectful and engaged with each other. And they were — they chatted about what they were doing, why they were doing it, and what they liked, or hated, about knitting.
This is no different then what happens at the creative table during a branding process, design project or strategy session. What we need to remember is everyone is working hard at working together. When people overcome obstacles together, something beautiful is created — even if it’s a scarf with a bunch of holes in it. The next one will be better.
During the inevitable frustrations that come up during a long branding process, or a corporate identity project, we all need to take a moment to celebrate the fact that we can work together well. If we keep doing it, things will turn out just fine.